The period of history sometimes innocuously referred to as the “Age of Discovery” brought Europeans into contact with the indigenous peoples of the Americas, groups so radically different that theologians devoted considerable effort to determining whether “Indians” had souls. The conventional narrative is that the Europeans completely dominated those they encountered. But actually, Europeans learned and were influenced by several forms of indigenous knowledge, not least among these their ways of building.
This inheritance is the central concern of the exhibition Pacha, Llaqta, Wasichay: Indigenous Space, Modern Architecture, New Art, at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York (July 13-September 30, 2018). The first three words of the exhibition’s title are from Quechua, the mostly widely spoken indigenous language of the Americas. The first means “time,” “space,” “nature,” “world;” the second, “place,” “country,” “community,” and the last, “to build.”